News Analysis: Vauxhall Faces Identity Crisis

Article excerpt

What will pan-European advertising led by Opel mean for a marque built around Britishness, asks James Quilter.

Kate Moss has been perhaps the most glamorous assistant in the perpetuation of an 80-year-old myth surrounding that great British car marque, Vauxhall.

The Croydon supermodel appeared with her peers in a campaign in the early-90s that was intended to help the marque stand out as a mid-market car of distinction.

Yet Vauxhall is not all it first appears. Rather than being British, it has had a US parent, General Motors, since 1925. And since the early 70s, its ads have disguised the fact that were it not for the presence of a griffin badge, its cars would be Opels, GM's European marque.

Although Vauxhall's enduring popularity has been about getting the right product on the roads, its marketing can claim some responsibility - and that marketing has been undeniably British. But, faced with plummeting sales and increased pressure from rivals, Vauxhall's future advertising is likely to take on a distinctly European flavour.

With losses mounting at GM - last month it posted a third-quarter deficit of dollars 1.6bn (pounds 900m), bringing its losses for the year to more than dollars 3bn (pounds 1.7bn) - cuts have had to be made, and UK campaigns are now a luxury it feels it can no longer afford.

Consolidated creative

Following the appointment of Alain Visser as Opel's executive director of European marketing in June 2004, it has been decided that from September a single campaign will be created for Opel, and adapted for Vauxhall.

Each campaign will be pitched out to a number of roster agencies; their work will then be altered and run across Europe by McCann-Erickson.

Advertising and car industry insiders are already questioning whether a pan-European strategy is the right way to go.

David Gillingwater, director of strategy at design and branding consultancy Marketplace, says that even if this catch-all work is cheaper, consumers prefer local activity. 'Look at Lexus,' he says. 'Its advertising in the US is completely different from that in the UK. People see their cars differently in each country; they don't buy them in the same way they do Coca-Cola.'

Pitches are in play for a number of Vauxhall/Opel models, including the Corsa, Astra and Antara. All pitches will take in an agency roster of Delaney Lund Knox Warren, McCann and Lowe. Paris agency Marcelle and 180 in Amsterdam are also likely to be involved.

A number of projects have already been farmed out in this way, with work for the Zafira and the Opel Performance Centre's high-performance cars going to McCann, and DLKW picking up the Vectra and Astra TwinTop. DLKW has already created a Corsa campaign.

The main loser in the UK seems to be Vauxhall's marketing department, whose power has been diminished, as all activity, including dealership material, is being run through Frankfurt.

Vauxhall and Opel were unable to comment on the situation, but insiders claim the creative work has fallen below expectations. …